Steve Martin’s role as a dentist in The Little Shop of Horrors is a classic representation of the fears that people have when getting their teeth checked. That fear is also why that even though there is a shortage of dentists in the world today, it doesn’t mean a newly minted dentist is just going to fall into great wealth.
There are more than 1 million dental personnel in the US as of today. In 1950, there were only 155,000 dental personnel.
What is remarkable about the above figure is that the number of dentists has remained relatively unchanged. The most explosive growth in the industry comes from hygienists and assistants. The number of actual dentists has only risen by 100,000 practicing individuals in the last 60 years.
Why People Visit the Dentist
- 59% of patients who visit the dentist are going for diagnostic purposes.
- The percentage of patients that see the dentist for preventative care: 18%.
- Restorative dentistry makes up 14% of the dentistry appointments which occur in the US.
- Examinations and prophylaxis represented 78% of all dental services provided in the dental office.
- Today there are many more plastic restorations in dental care than amalgams compared to 1950 data.
- 9% of patient visits are for specialty care, including prosthodontic, endodontic, and oral surgery.
A smile is something you can hide if need be. Many people would prefer to stay away from the dentist because there may be fear present, but there may also be shame as well. Having some dentists with the reputation of recommending unnecessary procedures doesn’t help patients who fit into this category either. Only 1 in 5 patient visits involves preventative care, so on the surface dentistry looks to be profitable. When looking at the actual population percentages of who goes to the dentist, however, things look very different.
Who Visits The Dentist Today?
- Since 2000, less than 50% of the total population has scheduled at least one visit with their dentist in the past 12 months.
- Routine checkups for adults is on the decline. In 2010, adults made up the lowest level of dentist visits in more than a decade with just 1 in 3 adults making an appointment.
- Since 1971, the average child has gone from having an average of 7 diseases or missing teeth to having fewer than 2.
- The percentage of Medicaid children with dental visits increased from 26.6% in 2001 to 39.9% in 2009.
- In 2011, older adults had significantly higher dental expenditures per capita than other dental patients: $767 for older adults and just under $650 for other dental patients.
- By 2040, 62% of dental expenditures are expected to come from patients who are at least 40 years old.
There are two things to consider here. First is the fact that patients are generally requiring less overall dental care today than they did a generation ago. Putting flouride in the water supply, encouraging 2 minutes of teeth brushing, and other changes to oral hygiene have greatly reduced dental issues. Then add in the fact that adults are not visiting the dentist for various reasons as frequently and this means that even though the overall population is up, the actual need for care is down. This is why the actual number of dentists is remaining relatively stable. People have a reduced need and have reduced levels of income even if they did have a need, so they stay away.
Who Is The Modern Dentist?
- Just 78% of registered dentists in the United States are professionally active. 72% of them are in a private practice.
- 80% of dentists today perform general dentistry work.
- For dentists who practice a specialty, the most common is orthodontics.
- Men have an overall 4:1 gender advantage in dentist graduates compared to women, though since 1997 that rate has dropped to 3:1.
- 86.2% of US dentists are White/Caucasian. Asians actually outnumber both Hispanics and African-American/Blacks in this field at 6.9% compared to 3.4%.
- 30.5% of dentists are in the 45-54 age demographic. 10% are still practicing in the 65+ age category.
With only 12% of practicing dentists under the age of 35, there could be a future shortage of dentists that could be problematic for some communities. This is especially true should health care changes continue and involve dentistry. With cost considerations in mind, however, and fewer overall patients seeking routine preventative care, there’s a reason why the average age of a dentist is 50. One dentist can serve a rather large population base.